Opposition to the PT

Clara Figueiredo, series_ Brasília_ fungi and simulacra, super court, 2018


The economy doesn't say everything, but it helps: analyzing government approval polls

This comment is part of an accumulation, as for two years we have been analyzing all surveys carried out in an electoral context that stratify by income. Our hypothesis is that, given the other cleavages, this continues to be the determining factor in understanding Brazilian political behavior. Our second hypothesis, which will also appear in this text, but in an underlying way, is that the main structuring axis of political preferences in the country is the rejection/identification with the Workers' Party or with its main leader: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Introducing the tools

Analyzing data from surveys on the eve of national elections by income stratification, it is clear that, based on the formation that gives the PT a hegemonic potential – dominance in the first two economic strata of monthly family income (up to two minimum wages and 2 to 5 minimum wages) –, there is a solidification of the party as a great presidential force. In this context, the 2014 elections already show a different trend, since the electorate that receives 2 to 5 minimum wages suffers a division, especially in the first round, due to the insertion of more conservative agendas in the debate, whether due to the advancement of progressive agendas in congress or by the Truth Commission, which gave a lot of visibility to a field of thought that had previously been placed in the background.

Thus, there is once again greater room for maneuver in Brazil for opposition to the PT, which was previously concentrated in the highest monthly family income strata (5-10 minimum wages and 10+ minimum wages). This new moment is capitalized by Jair Bolsonaro, who in 2018 achieved a record record for the right, with regard to voting intentions in the 2-5 minimum wage group and marked his great difference there in his expressive victory.

Thus, as research indicates, the majority of Brazilian voters who do not have their ideological preferences so crystallized (swing voters) are in this range – with clear favorites in the others, both the 0-2 minimum wages voting en masse in the PT, as well as 5-10 minimum wages and 10+ minimum wages voting en masse for the opposition candidate.

Based on this characterization, greater care is taken with the analyzes of this specific group (2-5 minimum wages), since they have the potential to define a presidential election in Brazil today. Within this stratum, there is an important part of the groups opposing the PT, such as evangelicals and “entrepreneurs”, knowing that they are two groups with high internal heterogeneity. At the same time, it is in this stratum that the greatest opportunities for winning votes are found through economic stimuli operated from the State, through public policies that provide better living conditions. This is because in the upper and middle classes the economic pragmatism that guides voters' choices is often oriented towards protecting their economic privileges and social prestige. Since both are relative, these layers end up being reactive to the economic mobility of the lower strata.

It is necessary to recognize, however, that there are several variables in the voting decision that go beyond the strictly economic limit, but that in any case: (i) have resonance in this sphere; (ii) they influence a more ideologically convinced electorate within the group in question that receives between 2 and 5 minimum wages. It is a group that, although it is in the range that concentrates the highest proportion of swing voters, is guided in a more predictable manner, given the determination of themes (issues) moral and religious in the composition of their political preferences. It is worth remembering that the swing voters are found in all layers, but the segment of 2 to 5 minimum wages seems, according to our research, to concentrate this more flexible electorate.

Analyzing the research

The government's approval and disapproval levels are at their worst in the current term, but what could have caused this drop? Looking at the Genial Quaest survey, we notice, in addition to the worsening of the government's popularity indicators, some discrepancies that help to understand this decline in almost all segments between August 2023 and February 2024. In addition to several possible conjectures that the numbers give rise to, we want to focus on some that seem unavoidable to understand the current scenario, that is: (a) the difference in approval between income strata; (b) the concentration of disapproval among evangelicals; (c) the feeling of being overlooked in some way by the government.

Before analyzing these points, it is necessary to observe the research design and the period in which it was carried out, which greatly impacts its results. The research of Quest he went to the field between the 25th and 27th of February, therefore, a week after Lula's statements comparing the actions of the State of Israel to those of Hitler, made on the trip to Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. In addition to this fact, the 25th was the day that thousands of followers of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro gathered on Avenida Paulista to support him, which certainly meant that the Bolsonaro supporters were much more active on the networks than in the stormy recent moments, in which the captain was on the ropes given the progress of investigations into attempted coups d'état and embezzlement of jewels. If we add such events to the fact found by Quaest, which indicates that 44% of respondents find out about politics through social networks (32%) or websites and blogs (12%), compared to 34% who prefer television, we observe that the situation This week was not good for the image of President Lula and his government.

When we look at the numbers more closely, we see that those who declare that they voted for Jair Bolsonaro are the ones who use social media the most to find out about politics. The numbers that were always above 35% are now around 45%. %, reaching more than half of Captain's voters (67%), when added to those who get information through websites and blogs (13%).

Given these numbers, it is not difficult to imagine that the Bolsonarist opposition mobilized its entire arsenal, focusing it on characterizing the Present as distant from Brazilian problems – a new traveling-Henrique-Cardoso, character from a humorous painting from the 1990s, which characterized FHC as a president oblivious to what was happening in the country – at the same time that he placed him as a great antipode of the West and of Israel which, as we will see, occupies an important place in the imagination of Brazilian evangelicals and conservatives. Added to this, news about the exacerbation of violence in large cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, in addition to the prison escape in Mossoró, ends up thickening this broth of dissatisfied people.

Resuming the thread, the initial emphasis will be on the results of this survey in the electorate by income stratum, perhaps the most interesting field of the last four Brazilian presidential elections. In it, President Lula remains very well approved in the 0-2 minimum wages, a loyal PT audience, but his disapproval reaches a mandate high of 36%. Still in this context, the approval of 2-5 minimum wages had a considerable change in approval, from 52% to 45%, with disapproval following, from 46% to 52%.

Here lies the most important point, both the basis of Lula's votes and the electorate in dispute in Brazil, the public with 2-5 minimum wages, worsened the government's assessment - the electorate with 5+ minimum wages did not have great changes, this electorate is predominantly anti-PT.

Government approval has consistently declined since August, but what happens in that month? The economy is also beginning to leave its best evaluation point on its way to its historic worsening. Not only among Jair Bolsonaro's voters, but also among Lula's voters and the null/white voters. The government, in its struggle to win over voters, has taken a few steps backwards in recent months and the reasons are indicated in questions in the Quaest survey.

The most important question is “In the last 12 months, Brazil's economy…”, the result went from 34% improved and 23% worse in August, to 26% improved and 38% worse. More than that, the last survey went from 34% improving and 31% getting worse to 26% getting better and 38% getting worse. Next to this question, “in the last month, what were the prices of…?” It also shows that the electorate's assessment is that all prices have risen, mainly food prices, but also bills and fuel prices. If, on the one hand, inflation remains within normal limits as a whole, both the PT public (0-2 minimum wages) and the electorate in dispute in Brazil (2-5 minimum wages) suffer from inflation specific to items most basic items in the basket.

Two other factors also influence the drop in valuation. The first is the normal wear curve within a political cycle marked by an initial moment that would be a kind of “honeymoon with the electorate” in the first months after the election. In the case of this government, this phase was heightened by the coup attempt on January 8th. At this point, there is a period of natural wear and tear in the middle of the term. Finally, there is the final period in which the government focuses on regaining popularity in order to be re-elected or elect a successor.

It is worth highlighting the highest strata in this research, which present a high approval for the history of voting intentions captured in our research, with 47,6% and 48,6%, the groups 5-10 minimum wages and 10+ minimum wages respectively. It is observed that the government's economic conduct seems to please these two strata, which are little affected by changes in food inflation. Minister Fernando Haddad's measures of predictability and persistence in bold fiscal targets seem to have guaranteed the government a vote of confidence from an important portion of these strata.

An example of this unexpected growth is the latest IPEC survey, in which approval fell by 7% for up to “1 minimum wage”, 1% for “1-2 minimum wages” and 3% for “2-5 minimum wages”, on the other hand, in the “5+ minimum wages” range, approval increased by 8%. In the government's assessment, the “terrible” assessment rose 8% up to “1 Minimum Wage” and the “good” assessment fell 10% in the same range.

Finally, the substantial increase in disapproval of the government and of Lula's figure among evangelicals is due both to the repercussion of the President's criticism of the Israeli government, and to the mobilization on the networks around this event and the dissemination of Fake News. Let us remember that for a good part of Brazilian evangelicals, Israel would be the clock of the world, since God promised to take the people back to the Holy Land at the end of time, which is interpreted as the creation of the State of Israel.

At the same time, several evangelical currents believe that Israel will be the scene of the great battle of Armageddon and the triumph of the “lord of armies”. In this way, the destiny of Israel is linked to the fulfillment of biblical prophecies, being a central piece in the eschatological narrative of a certain American evangelicalism that has been gaining more and more space among Brazilian churches. A fact that partly explains the adherence of evangelicals to symbols of Judaism and its symbols, as seen during the demonstration in Paulista.

Another crucial point observed in the research were the groups that feel neglected in the Lula government. When asked: “Does the Lula government care about people like you?”, people living in the Northeast, who earn up to two minimum wages, who declare themselves black, women and Catholic tend to give significantly more positive answers than those who declare themselves white women, residents of the South/Southeast, who earn between 2 and 5 minimum wages and are evangelicals, they feel neglected by the government. This dynamic appears to be a side effect, which results, in part, from the improvement in the economic environment, the reduction in the unemployment rate and the increase in consumption, especially among segments of the working class, disputed by Bolsonarism.

In particular, it is worth highlighting the group formed by those who receive between 2 and 5 minimum wages, formerly called the new middle class or new precariat, made up of heterogeneous segments among themselves, but which, in general, end up being excluded from most of income transfer policies aimed at the poorest, without, however, being able to access quality private services that continue to be the privilege of the middle and upper classes. Hence the resentment of these segments that end up perceiving themselves threatened by government discourses and programs of economic inclusion, but also symbolic, aimed at racial and gender minorities, as we have already defended on other occasions (Gracino Junior, Goulart and Frias, 2021).

Given this, the scenario becomes more complicated for the government, as opposition groups, especially Bolsonarista, rearticulate their networks after January 08th, while the government itself has difficulty communicating with each base. increasingly fragmented.

*Mayra Goulart is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFRJ.

*Paulo Gracino is a professor at the Department of Sociology at UnB.

*Raul Paiva is a researcher at the Laboratory of Parties and Comparative Politics at UFRJ.

Originally published on GGN newspaper.

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